"We went to the promoter and said, Can we go home? They were, like, 'Yeah, you can go home! But first you're gonna have to give me two millions dollars!'": Lollapalooza '92 celebrated alt. rock taking over the mainstream. But for one band, it was hell

1992 poster
(Image credit: Lollapalooza)

With a line-up featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Ice Cube plus the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Stone Temple Pilots and Cypress Hill on side stages, Lollapalooza 1992 was one of the defining festival tours of the decade. But as the 'alternative nation' began to gatecrash mainstream culture in the United States, not everyone was on board with this sonic revolution.

The Jesus and Mary Chain were one of two British bands booked to play the festivals main stage, and, as with 4AD shoegazers Lush, Jim and William Reid found their hazy, shimmering, reverb-heavy, alt.pop entirely out of step with the more aggressive, route one rock and hip-hop served up by their touring partners. 

In a new interview with Q, William Reid admits that the East Kilbride band considered the whole undertaking "traumatic", and bluntly states, "That wasn't the right time for us to be doing Lollapalooza."

"A few years later we would've got it, and we would've just accepted it," Reid reckons. "But at that time, we had it in mind how it was all gonna go down, and then we thought, Daylight? Do we really want to play in daylight? But we thought, Ah, fuck it, it'll be all right! And we got there, and...it felt like standing on stage naked. That's what it felt like. And it was just, like, Fuck, why did we agree to do this?"

"We tried to get out of it!" the singer recalls with a laugh. "We went to the promoter and said, We don't like this. Can we go home? And they were, like, 'Yeah, you can go home! But first of all you're gonna have to give me two millions dollars!' And we were, like, Okay, we'll just stay, then. We'll just stay. And that was it: we just stayed. And we made the best of it, and... Y'know, we just didn't enjoy it."

With the benefit of hindsight, reflecting back now on the run, which stretched from July 18 to September 13, 1992, Reid can see that his band, and Lush, were operating in an environment in which the odds of success were stacked high against them.

"We didn't enjoy it, and it felt to us like the audience weren't into what we were doing," he admits. "It was right in the middle of the grunge thing, and everybody just wanted to see Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. They weren't interested in bands like the Mary Chain or Lush. So it was a tough one for us to do.

"But a couple of years later, playing big festivals, kind of getting used to the idea that you're playing outdoors, you realise that maybe everybody's not your fan out there, and you kind of understand. It clicks. You think, Oh, fuck, that's how we should've gone into Lollapalooza, with that attitude of, Eh, what the fuck, just play the songs. Instead, we were like rabbits caught in headlights. It was just traumatic for us. To be honest, I'm not even sure why it was so traumatic. But it was."

The Jesus and Mary Chain's new album, Glasgow Eyes, was released on March 22, and entered the UK charts at number 7, becoming the band's highest-charting record for 37 years.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.